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Body composition, energy expenditure and physical activity

The adaptive metabolic response to exercise-induced weight loss influences both energy expenditure and energy intake



A decline in resting energy expenditure (REE) beyond that predicted from changes in body composition has been noted following dietary-induced weight loss. However, it is unknown whether a compensatory downregulation in REE also accompanies exercise (EX)-induced weight loss, or whether this adaptive metabolic response influences energy intake (EI).


Thirty overweight and obese women (body mass index (BMI)=30.6±3.6 kg/m2) completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic EX. Body composition, metabolism, EI and metabolic-related hormones were measured at baseline, week 6 and post intervention. The metabolic adaptation (MA), that is, difference between predicted and measured REE was also calculated post intervention (MApost), with REE predicted using a regression equation generated in an independent sample of 66 overweight and obese women (BMI=31.0±3.9 kg/m2).


Although mean predicted and measured REE did not differ post intervention, 43% of participants experienced a greater-than-expected decline in REE (−102.9±77.5 kcal per day). MApost was associated with the change in leptin (r=0.47; P=0.04), and the change in resting fat (r=0.52; P=0.01) and carbohydrate oxidation (r=−0.44; P=0.02). Furthermore, MApost was also associated with the change in EI following EX (r=−0.44; P=0.01).


Marked variability existed in the adaptive metabolic response to EX. Importantly, those who experienced a downregulation in REE also experienced an upregulation in EI, indicating that the adaptive metabolic response to EX influences both physiological and behavioural components of energy balance.

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This research was supported by BBSRC grant numbers BBS/B/05079 and BB/G005524/1 (DRINC), EU FP7 Full4Health (266408) and the Stockholm county council (ALF).

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Correspondence to M Hopkins.

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Hopkins, M., Gibbons, C., Caudwell, P. et al. The adaptive metabolic response to exercise-induced weight loss influences both energy expenditure and energy intake. Eur J Clin Nutr 68, 581–586 (2014).

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  • exercise-induced weight loss
  • energy intake
  • resting energy expenditure
  • leptin

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